Review of powers in consequence of EU withdrawal

Part of Finance (No. 3) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 8th January 2019.

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Photo of Jonathan Reynolds Jonathan Reynolds Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury) 5:15 pm, 8th January 2019

I am extremely glad that that issue has come up, because the opportunities created by growth outside the EU have no relationship to our membership of the EU, and could possibly be undermined by our leaving the EU. If we want to compete in competitive emerging markets around the world, what better way is there to do so than from within the single market? I would wager with the hon. Gentleman that a country like Germany will do far better from that growth around the world through its continued membership of the European Union than we will. I am afraid that it is because of such statistics, which have no bearing on serious Government policy or reality, that this debate has got to where it is, but I will move away from a wider debate on Brexit and return to the Finance Bill before you tell me to do so, Mr Deputy Speaker.

I will now come to clause 89 and the relationship between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Under the draft withdrawal agreement it is widely accepted that, under the backstop arrangements, Northern Ireland will remain in regulatory alignment with the European Union, which would be particularly the case for EU customs law but it would also apply to compliance with elements of EU single market regulation in the technical regulation of goods, state aid and other areas of north-south co-operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Of course, Northern Ireland would be included in parts of the EU VAT and excise regimes and in the single electricity market.

With that in mind, it is clear that the powers handed to the Treasury by this Bill may not be applicable in Northern Ireland in the legal and regulatory areas under which EU authority would remain. We are therefore seeking a review that clearly sets out any difference in application of these powers in respect of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and I urge Members on both sides of the House to support new clause 3.

New clause 7 relates to clause 90 on establishing an emissions reduction trading regime. It would require the Government to review the expected effect of the carbon emissions tax on the UK’s capacity to meet internationally agreed climate targets. There has never been a more critical time to take urgent action on climate change to avoid environmental catastrophe. The report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published in October 2018, shows that we have just 12 years left to make unprecedented changes to prevent global warming increases above 1.5° C. Our exit from the European Union must not be used as an excuse to step back from action on climate change. Worryingly, clause 90 contains one of the Bill’s very few passing references to environmental issues, and our review, proposed in new clause 7, would ensure that the Government are held accountable for making progress on reducing emissions without using Brexit as an excuse for stalling.

This is evidently a Government in chaos, seemingly without any plan or strategy at all. The new clauses and amendments in this group would improve both the Finance Bill and the process by which we leave the European Union. They are sensible, proportionate and timely, and I commend them to the House.